Affordable and valuable
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President Barack Obama will emphasize the need to keep college affordable when he visits the University of Iowa campus Wednesday April 25. It’s a focus familiar to UI leaders.
“We’ve made affordable, accessible education a top priority at Iowa,” says UI President Sally Mason. “As President Obama calls on the nation to keep college within reach, we’re proud to point out ways we’re doing exactly that.”
Reputation for value
Last fall, the University of Iowa welcomed another record first-year undergraduate class—a class that also was more accomplished than its predecessors.
Enrollment trends show considerable demand for a UI education, but university leaders remain determined to keep tuition costs down.
“We provide a top-quality education and learning environment for our students, and we work very hard to maintain a price that’s affordable,” says UI Provost Barry Butler. “We want all students and families to be able to make the investment in higher education.”
—UI President Sally Mason
This emphasis on affordability has earned Iowa a reputation for value. For seven straight years, the Fiske Guide to Colleges has listed the university among its “best buys”—colleges that offer high academic rankings and vibrant student life at an inexpensive or moderate price. In 2011, only 49 schools made the grade.
Iowa’s resident undergraduate tuition and fees for 2011-2012 are the second-lowest in the Big Ten at $7,765. Resident tuition and fees at the conference’s public universities average $11,202 for the current academic year.
To help keep tuition and other UI charges low, the university has emphasized efficiency and productivity through innovation. These measures proved especially important in fiscal 2010 and 2011, as state appropriations for higher education saw significant reductions.
Even at the height of the economic downturn, UI officials made maintaining strong yet affordable education programs the university’s number one goal.
“We continue to examine rigorously how we organize and budget in order to preserve our core missions,” says Doug True, senior vice president and university treasurer. “Our university community has met every budget challenge with creative thinking about preserving value and avoiding any unnecessary expense growth.”
True cites dozens of specific cost-saving measures from all corners of the university. A few examples:
- The university has created a series of self-supporting “enterprise” units that provide economical campus service.
- The UI has significantly downsized its workforce, with more than 400 early retirements over a five-year period that ultimately will generate more than $80 million in savings. Employee benefits also have been restructured, resulting in an additional $5 million in savings per year.
- The Graduate College has eliminated or restructured nearly 50 programs based on student demand and opportunities to streamline programs for a more efficient, effective student experience. Other colleges like Pharmacy, Dentistry, Education, and Liberal Arts and Sciences likewise merged programs or identified administrative efficiencies.
- Several satellite libraries have been closed and consolidated within the main university library.
- Units like the registrar’s office and admissions have eliminated printed materials in favor of online-only replacements, saving money and reducing their environmental footprint.
- The university has converted to 100 percent electronic workflow for its business systems. In addition, a new student records system called MAUI will automate admissions, financial aid, and other processes, streamlining communication and workflow.
- The university converted desktop computer upgrade and troubleshooting to an online automated service for an annual savings of $700,000.
Access and success
• Campus employment
• Support for veterans
• Community college partnerships
For information about Iowa academic programs, enrollment, costs, and more, see the UI facts site.
In addition to cost-saving measures, the university has directed more resources toward student financial aid, guided by the belief that no qualified student should be denied a UI education based on their ability to pay.
In fiscal year 2006, UI students at all levels—undergraduate, graduate, and professional—received a total $316.5 million in aid, $104.3 million from university sources. By fiscal 2011, total aid rose to $470.2 million, $173.3 million from the university.
Financial aid includes loan, grant, scholarship, and employment programs funded by federal, state, university, and private sources. UI aid programs recognize both financial need and academic merit.
“We’ve made a concerted effort to make sure all Iowans who qualify for admission have a place at this university and can afford to study here,” says Beth Ingram, associate provost for undergraduate education and professor in the Tippie College of Business.
But graduating in four years remains one of the best ways for students to keep college costs down. That’s why the university emphasizes not just access, but also initiatives that help students succeed:
- On Iowa!—a pre-semester program for incoming students introduced last fall—prompts students to set college goals, connect with advisors, and complete their degrees on time.
- Free tutoring programs provide additional support for students enrolled in some of the most challenging introductory courses.
- Expanded first-year seminars and living-learning communities connect new students with peers and immerse them in academic life.
- The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences proactively counsels students who’ve earned enough credits to graduate, but have not found a focus for their studies.
- New retention services follow up with students who drop out, looking to bring them back right away or leave them positioned to eventually return.
Completion is the ultimate goal. UI leaders know full well that students who earn degrees dramatically enhance their own economic prospects, but also contribute to the greater good.
“The last thing we want to see is students come in, run up debt, and leave without a degree,” says Ingram. “That’s a loss for the individual student, but also for all of us.”